In today’s modern world, we are seeing stress levels on the rise. Whether it’s our busy lifestyles, jobs, personal conflicts, or even boredom, all of these aspects can cause high feelings of stress. Minor stressors are a part of life, and thankfully our body has amazing ways of dealing with short-term stress. However, what happens when your body is under constant stress? We will dive into what exactly causes stress, how the hormone cortisol plays a role, and some powerful herbs you can use to help calm high stress and cortisol levels.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenal cortex. Your body releases cortisol when stress, physical or psychological, is present in the body. The main function of cortisol is to prepare the body for fight or flight mode in response to stressors. The release of cortisol can impact the body in different ways, but most commonly, it can increase blood sugar levels, suppress the immune system, and raise blood pressure. But one good thing cortisol does is it supports the body’s natural inflammatory response (which stress can cause) and it mobilizes glucose reserves for energy. Cortisol, ultimately, works by helping your body respond to short-term stress. So, what happens when stressors are constant or long-term?
How Cortisol Imbalance Affects the Body
We can’t talk about cortisol without mentioning the HPA axis. The HPA axis is your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. As mentioned above, cortisol is secreted by the adrenals and is a product of the interaction within your HPA axis. Think of your HPA axis as a motor. It revs up when a stressor is detected and cools down when the threat is resolved. However, if we stay under constant stress this system doesn’t have a chance to “cool” down, resulting in unwanted long-term stress. Cortisol follows the HPA axis’s signals and releases for many hours after your body identifies a stressor. Most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, which means that it plays an important part in supporting different functions of the body and can cause issues when out of balance. In fact, cortisol is so important that it has been linked to different chronic conditions. Cortisol imbalance can show up as many different things. Some people may notice stubborn weight gain (primarily in the midsection), high-stress levels, constant fatigue, brain fog, and many other issues.
Herbs to ease stress
Now that we know more about cortisol and how it affects stress levels, we can learn more about which herbs our Clinical Herbalists recommend to help ease feelings of stress and tension.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogenic herb prized in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Adaptogens, in general, aim to support your body’s natural stress response, helping you to adapt to them with more ease and balance (hence the name). Ashwagandha is primarily used for its stress support benefits, but is also used to help support the immune system and has a direct effect on the body’s HPA axis. Because of these stress-soothing effects, ashwagandha has also shown to help the body balance cortisol levels. It is also worth noting that adaptogens like ashwagandha are not an overnight fix. Adaptogens often thrive on consistency and need time to build in the body before working their magic. You can find ashwagandha in our herbal formulas, Chill the F* Out™ and Seal the Deal™.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
This ancient root herb, also known as Siberian ginseng, is another adaptogenic herb. Eleuthero works similarly to ashwagandha in the sense that they both help support the HPA axis. However, elutherois slightly more stimulating, making it a great non-caffeinated option for those suffering from ongoing fatigue or tiredness. Eleuthero has been shown to help the body balance cortisol production, which, in turn, supports the immune system. You can find eleuthero in our herbal formulas, Slay All Day™, Blue Me Away™, and Rosé-Tinted Glasses™ .
Schisandra Berry (Schisandra chinesis)
Schisandra berry is one of the few adaptogens that is not a mushroom or a root. It has been used in Eastern medicine for its stress-supporting capabilities for centuries, but also for its hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) qualities. This berry is also supportive of skin health, making it a great choice for those who would like to add a boost to their skin from the inside out. In terms of schisandra berry’s effect on cortisol levels, studies have shown that schisandra is effective at helping the body balance them out. You can find schisandra berry in our herbal formulas, Firm Believer™, Releaf™, Clean Sweep™, and Rosé-Tinted Glasses™.
As discussed, excess amounts of cortisol can wreak havoc in a lot of different areas. Whether it contributes to excessive tiredness, brain fog, stress, etc., herbs can help bring you back to balance. Focusing on adaptogen-rich herbal formulas like Chill the F* Out™ and Rosé-Tinted Glasses™ can make all the difference in supporting you and your body during stressful periods.